Operation Ladbroke Sites – the Coup-de-Main Objectives

Ever wondered exactly where the Operation Ladbroke sites are in Sicily? Here’s a handy battlefield guide to the South Staffords’ coup-de-main objectives. 

Please note: it may not be safe or possible to visit some of the 
Operation Ladbroke sites. See the warning at the bottom of this 
article.

Waterloo, Putney, Gnat, Mosquito, Walsall, Bilston, Dudley, Gornal. Codenames. A strange mixture of biting insects, London bridges and places in the West Midlands.

The biting insects were codenames for Italian gun batteries. Italian batteries usually consisted of gun emplacements and barracks buildings, and sometimes range finders and fire control bunkers.

The London bridges (Waterloo and Putney) were codenames for bridges over the triple waterways south of Syracuse (the Anapo, Mammaiabica and Ciane).

The other names are those of towns in the old Black Country north-west of Birmingham [map]. They were codenames for Italian strongpoints, which usually consisted of pillboxes surrounded by barbed wire. The codenames would have reminded many British airborne troops of home. Walsall (the UK town, not the Italian strongpoint) is not much over 10 miles as the crow flies from Whittington Barracks [museum], the depot of the Staffordshire Regiment.

The 2nd Battalion of the South Staffordshire Regiment (2 South Staffords) was one of two battalions of gliderborne troops in 1 Air Landing Brigade of 1 Airborne Division, both deployed in Operation Ladbroke. Ladbroke was the opening move of Operation Husky, the Allied invasion of Sicily in 1943. The Staffords were given the task of seizing or destroying anything that the Italians could use to stop British seaborne forces from coming up Highway 115 and rapidly capturing the port city of Syracuse (see the Staffords’ orders here).

Waterloo

This triple bridge [map], the Ponte Grande (literally, the “Big Bridge”), was the primary focus of Operation Ladbroke. It carried Highway 115 and was seen as the key to seizing Syracuse [map]. The old iron bridge across the Anapo has vanished, but its north ramp [photo] still remains beside the new bridge that replaced it. The bridge across the Mammaiabica and Ciane is in still its original place. One of the pillboxes defending the north bank is now in the grounds of the Dafne restaurant.

Putney

Putney was the codename for the railway bridge across the Mammaiabica and Ciane [map]. It is not clear if the codename applied just to the bridge, or included the railway bridge across the Anapo, or also some of the surroundings (see discussion below about Dudley and Gornal).

Bilston

Bilston was a large strongpoint [map] straddling Highway 115. When I last looked, there were still several pillboxes dotted about the area, some cut in half by road widening  [photo].

Gnat

Gnat was a battery of guns that defended Syracuse’s harbour. The site of the battery  [map] is now Il Faraone restaurant. Nothing is left of the battery except the fire control bunker, which is situated behind the restaurant’s bar.

Walsall

Walsall was a strongpoint [map] straddling Highway 115, not far south of the Ponte Grande. It was based around an inland lighthouse which is still there [photo]. For part of the story of the fighting around Walsall, see [here].

Mosquito

Mosquito was a battery of guns close to Highway 115. The battery’s site [map] is now covered with houses, and there is no trace left of the battery’s emplacements and buildings. However there are still some remains of the strongpoint at its northern end [photo].

Dudley and Gornal

‘A’ Company of the Staffords was ordered to land in LZ 3 North [map] “i) to occupy Dudley, ii) to capture Gornal, iii) to establish all round protection in area Putney”. I have found no evidence as to what or where Dudley and Gornal were. Presumably they were near LZ 3 North and also Putney (see above). One of them may have been the strongpoint in the area between the two railway bridges [map]. If any readers know of any original 1943 documents that have more specific information on Dudley and Gornal, or which clarify the exact scope of Putney, do please leave a reply below.

 

Warning: the mention in this article of these Operation Ladbroke sites and their remains is not an indication that it is safe or possible to visit them. Some are next to busy roads, some are next to railway lines, some are next to cliffs, some are next to steep banks above deep water, some are in a dangerous condition, some are now private property, some remain the property of the state. None has been set up as a tourist attraction. Readers should satisfy themselves that it is safe and allowable before visiting one, and do so at their own risk. Also, the information in this article may be out of date. See our Friendly Disclaimer and our Terms of Use.

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2 Responses to Operation Ladbroke Sites – the Coup-de-Main Objectives

  1. Jeremy Langlands says:

    The only mention I have seen of Dudley is on the website http://www.military-history.biz/britishairbornetroops1940-45/26732-the-invasion-of-sicily.html. One of the maps places it on the bridge in between Waterloo and Putney. However as they have the LZs and Walsall incorrectly located, the source is suspect. Surely if Dudley and Gornal were A Coy Staffs’ objectives, then the Grid refs would have been included in their written orders and thus can be accurately located? Where can they be seen?

    • Ian Murray says:

      Thanks Jeremy. I have studied the orders closely and transcribed them here. The map you mention has other errors as well, so I think it can be safely ignored. The original orders can be found in the National Archives in Kew. Apart from the single mention in the orders I transcribed, I have found no other references to Dudley and Gornal in any of the documents I have seen in Kew. Perhaps some other 1943 sources will yet come to light, or perhaps somebody reading this already knows where some can be found.

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